There was to be no upset in the form book at Stonebridge Road on Tuesday night as champions-elect Ebbsfleet United edged St Albans City another step closer to relegation from National League South with Aaron McLeanâ€™s first half strike piercing the Saints gritty rearguard action.
Cityâ€™s away record this season is nothing short of wretched but the sheer stubbornness exhibited in the face of overwhelming odds in Kent offers hope that new manager Ian Allinson might yet have sufficient time to turnaround the Saints fortunes.
Ebbsfleet, managed by Daryl McMahon who had two stints as a player under Allinson at Boreham Wood, seldom win by a large margin â€“ only one league match has been won by more than two goals â€“ but once McLean had scored just before the interval, there was little doubt as to which way the points were heading.
Allinson admitted that City do have a problem in front of goal, whether it be from the supply lines or even, possibly, a lack of desire around the penalty area.
He has been busy trying to freshen up the squad and looks set to introduce a new winger on Saturday for the trip to Bath City, and has not ruled out the possibility of there being three new faces in the side.
Whether or not the former Arsenal player is successful in bringing in fresh blood could become immaterial, as results elsewhere went against St Albans on Tuesday.
Anything other than victory on Saturday at a ground where City have failed to score in five previous visits could see their fate slipping out of their control.
For the testing trip to Stonebridge Road on Tuesday the Saints sought to nullify the big-spending home side. To a degree the tactic was a success and frustration was seeping into the Fleet before McLean dealt the decisive blow.
Somewhat against the script, St Albans caused some confusion in the home defence inside the opening minute when Ben Martin flicked on a Lee Chappell throw-in.
It was to be quite a while before home â€˜keeper Brandon Hall again saw action close to his goal with a sliced effort well-wide by Thalassitis being the sum total of Cityâ€™s first half threats on goal.
Similarly, Joe Welch in the City goal was hardly working overtime as the Saints did a commendable job in keeping the Fleet in neutral territory but the one-time Ebbsfleet custodian had to be alert to collect a clever Matt Godden glancing header from a Matt Fish cross midway through the half.
A minute later an excellent move at speed found Anthony Cook with space on the Fleet left and from his in- swinging right-footed cross Danny Kedwell looped a header just a fraction over Welchâ€™s goal.
On the half hour Welch made an outstanding point-blank save from a near post Godden header following another Cook corner.
St Albans looked to have completed half of their task successfully as the game drifted into the final minute of the half with the scores still level, but seconds later the team from Northfleet opened their account.
Goalkeeper Hall started a move of twelve passes that was temporarily delayed by the intervention of City defender Eddie Oshodi before Stuart Lewis sent in a cross that Martin cleared to just outside the penalty area, where McLean sent a half volley to the right of the diving Welch.
Welch appeared to see the ball late as it went over the head of Josh Staunton and bounced just in front of the keeper, who got a hand to it but could not prevent it from sneaking inside his left hand upright.
The goal was McLeanâ€™s fifth in four games; a total that is one higher than City have amassed in seven league games since the turn of the year.
The second half was played a greater tempo than the first with Ebbsfleet continuing to dominate possession and the Saints continuing to put up solid resistance.
There was also no lack of friction on the pitch as a chilly night was warmed by several skirmishes that looked destined to end in a blood-bath but, thankfully, did not.
The physical nonsense began as the players walked down the tunnel at half time and exploded nine minutes after the restart following an ugly, but hardly dangerous, challenge by Al Bangura on Lewis.
Five Ebbsfleet players immediately sprinted to the scene and even both goalkeepers wandered up to see what the fuss was all about.
Within the next five minutes referee Carl Fitch added four more names to his little book as he attempted to keep a lid on the boiling pot.
The crowd roared â€˜you donâ€™t know what youâ€™re doingâ€™ at the referee but video footage proved that he called every single booking correctly.
Following Ugo Udojiâ€™s booking, Cook â€“ a superb striker of set-pieces â€“ whipped an excellent free kick into the penalty area that Danny Kedwell glanced goalwards but Oshodi managed to deflect out for a corner.
From that corner Fleet skipper Tom Bonner headed wide.
The pressure on the City goal was mounting and Welch did well to beat wide a close range effort from Godden after Kedwell had cushioned a header into his path from a Lewis cross.
A good piece of defending by Chappell denied Godden a simple finish while a quickly free kick caught City asleep and Cook hammered in a shot from an acute angle that Welch did well to turn aside.
From Cookâ€™s corner Dean Rance went close with a header.
Welch was soon back in the thick of the action to catch a snap-shot from Lewis and then dive at the feet of Godden as the Fleetâ€™s leading scorer overran a fine pass from McLean.
St Albans had expanded a lot of energy just to stay in the game yet in the closing stages managed to mount a few attacks of their own as United were hit by a bout of the jitters.
Louie Theophanous, relegated to the bench before the kick off, had a crisp shot deflected narrowly wide for Cityâ€™s only corner of the evening.
From a corner at the opposite end, taken by Cook, Martin headed away as far as Lewis whose half volley dipped just wide of the target.
Ebbsfleetâ€™s failure to add to their interval lead so nearly proved costly in added time.
Welch kicked the ball long, Bonner headed it wide to where Corcoran seized possession and touched it inside to substitute Liam MacDevitt.
One-time Yeovil Town player MacDevitt clipped a first time ball across the face of the goal that somehow eluded both Thalassitis and Theophanous; Cityâ€™s chance of salvaging a vital point had gone.
St Albans, 23 points, are now seven points adrift of four sides outside of the relegation places on 30 points, and all four have games in hand on the Saints.
Bath City, the side St Albans visit on Saturday, started the season with six straight wins and a nine-match undefeated run. Since then the Romans have slumped alarmingly and had a change of manager.
Quite remarkably their only victory in the past 14 matches was away to Ebbsfleet. Kick off at Twerton Park is at 3pm.
The Saints are likely to be without Al Bangura due to injury, while Jack Green is also still absent and the midfielder could be facing an operation on his foot injury.